PRINT February 2007


FROM A DISTANCE the new Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston looks modest. A simple box on the harbor, in scale with the other (scant) buildings there, it eschews the sculptural iconicity that many art institutions have lately embraced. It is only when you round the austere edge of the building and see how its top floor cantilevers boldly over the boardwalk that you are struck not only by its physical presence—from the harbor it will indeed be a landmark, especially when aglow at night—but also by its architectural intelligence, for here the diagram of the design becomes immediately clear.

In effect the architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro first opened the narrow path of the Boston HarborWalk into a broad platform of wooden planks, which they then stepped up to produce a public grandstand for outdoor performance.1 This slope extends to the height of the first floor, which, faced with glass, contains the admissions, “art lab,” store, and café. On the harbor side the diagonal continues upward to describe the second and third floors, also faced in glass, where the education center, “digital studio,” offices, and theater are located (the last is the indoor continuation of the outdoor grandstand, and it fronts the harbor as well). Finally, the exhibition galleries are placed on the fourth level, which is mostly supported from above by trusses; its seventeen thousand square feet are thus column free and, so, amenable to curatorial transformation. With twelve-foot squares of polished concrete flooring and fifteen-foot ceilings with skylights and scrims, this neo-Miesian pavilion is also a luminous mediation of city, water, and sky (the corridor that juts out over the boardwalk provides an uninterrupted view of the harbor). Suspended beneath it, like the cockpit of an amphibious spaceship, is a media room, a wedge of broad steps and computer screens that drops down, vertiginously, to a long window that looks onto the water below. Here the loop of the building—the gradual rise out of the harbor, the elegant angles that define its volumes, and the abrupt return to the harbor—is complete.2

Such form-devices as ramps, spirals, and loops are pronounced in recent design. Peter Eisenman features the ramp in his Wexner Center for the Visual Arts (1983–89) in Columbus, Ohio, for example, as does Zaha Hadid, differently, in the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art (1997–2003), in Cincinnati, while Rem Koolhaas exploits the spiral in the Seattle Central Library (1999–2004) and the loop in the CCTV Building now on the rise in Beijing. Yet the immediate precedent of the ICA design is a 2002 scheme by DS+R for the yet-unbuilt Eyebeam Museum of Art & Technology in Chelsea, which also features dramatic cantilevering. Given a program that called for both exhibition and production, the architects decided to weave the two kinds of spaces together: A two-ply slab of fiberglass and concrete is to snake up from the street, undulating side to side to shape each level, with floor becoming wall and wall becoming ceiling at the turns, thus enfolding the two sorts of activities in multiple ways.3 Although the two projects differ in appearance—the Eyebeam would be all curves, the ICA is all angles—they share a logic of flow or circuit. Moreover, each scheme responds to a fundamental paradox, which it turns to advantage: With the Eyebeam the difficulty lies in a program that is half museum, half atelier, while with the ICA it lies in an art museum dedicated to attention sited on a harbor front inclined to distraction. “The museum wanted to turn inward,” Ricardo Scofidio remarks; “the site wanted to turn the building outward. The building had to have a double vision.”4 What the architects thus produced, Elizabeth Diller adds, is both “a self-conscious object that . . . wants to be looked at” and “a machine for looking.”5 This last phrase sounds modernist in its pragmatic efficiency—if the house according to Le Corbusier is a machine for living in, then a museum might well be a machine for looking—but it points rather to a postmodernist turn of mind that imagines architecture as a prosthetic subject, one possessed here of expressionistic and voyeuristic proclivities (it “wants” to be looked at, and to look).

This conceit of architecture-as-subject has guided much work by DS+R. Whereas designers like Eisenman and Hadid have sometimes carried a mode of representation into the architectural object as such, DS+R have sometimes projected an aspect of vision into the object. This approach was already programmatic in Slow House (1989–91), an unbuilt scheme for a beach home on Long Island that is structured in its entirety as a view—as a vector of sight that bends and expands from a narrow entrance to a large picture window one hundred feet away (the view is to be redoubled on a monitor that relays a live video feed of the water).6 Fifteen years later the ICA complicates this idea of architecture as “eyebeam” greatly. On the one hand, the architects wanted not only to disrupt the “touristic gaze” of the site (as the video screen would do at Slow House) but also to “disperse views” within the museum (along the building, across it, up it, and so on). They are “always partial and fleeting,” Diller says of these sight lines. “They follow you and hide from you.”7 At the same time, Charles Renfro adds, DS+R conceived the museum as an “optical instrument” in its own right. For example, the suspended mediatheque on the harbor front functions as a “viewfinder,” as does the large, glass-enclosed elevator at the core of the building, and again the fourth-floor vista onto the water is panoramic.8 Along with the circuit up from the harbor, around and through the museum, and back down, it is this cluster of views that both opens up the ICA and ties it back together.

The notion of architecture as a visual text is brilliant, but it raises a key con- cern here: How will art fare in a museum that makes such an insistent claim on our visual interest? Although the galleries are given pride of place in the cantile- vered pavilion, they might seem secondary to the other space-events of the building (as they are for many people at the Centre Pompidou, say). Perhaps in this regard the ICA will represent a new moment in the art-architecture rapport: If it declines to compete with the art at the level of sculptural iconicity, as at the Guggenheim Bilbao, or, for that matter, at the level of awesome scale, as at Tate Modern, it might vie with the art in the very register of the visual—that is, in the otherwise privileged dimension of the visual artist. “We began the project with the assumption that architecture would neither compete with the art nor be a neutral backdrop,” Scofidio comments. “It had to be a creative partner.”9 Yet it is not clear whether it will be collaborative in this way (or what in fact that might mean in practice). Of course, with the boardwalk, grandstand, and theater, the ICA also emphasizes the performative (one can imagine a contemporary Vsevolod Meyerhold staging the entire building as if it were a Liubov Popova set). However, this, too, is a field in which these architects excel, and as artists explore the building as stage and/or as site, might they also feel a little subordinate to it?

“DS+R is an interdisciplinary studio,” the firm’s press release reads, “that fuses architecture with the visual and performing arts,” and certainly DS+R have pursued this fusion as actively as any other office. The relevant work divides, roughly, into multimedia pieces (usually in collaboration with theater and dance companies); site-specific installations; images and objects that reflect on desire, gender, and display; and electronic interventions that blend architecture and media. An early instance of theatrical work is The Rotary Notary and His Hot Plate (Delay in Glass), 1987, written and directed by Susan Mosakowski under the inspiration of the Large Glass by Marcel Duchamp. Here DS+R suspended a large mirror at a forty-five-degree angle above the stage in order to divide its space horizontally into two visual zones, as with the Large Glass. The mirror could move up and down, a wall panel could rotate as well, and the result was a “perpetual motion machine” of bodies, prosthetics, and images that, again like the Large Glass, kept the performers in a state of continual dis/connection.10 As the project note suggests, this simple use of the mirror was a pure act of architecture, for it transformed the stage into the basic modalities of architectural representation—the elevation, or the movements seen onstage, and the plan, or the movements seen in the mirror. DS+R have exploited this device to transform the space of dance, too, as in Moving Target, 1996, which, based on the diaries of Nijinsky, explored various states of emotion deemed “normal” and “pathological.”11 With EJM1: Man Walking at Ordinary Speed and EJM2: Inertia, both 1998, DS+R again collaborated on dance pieces, here ones that investigated different representations of motion in a way that reached back to the famous photographic studies undertaken by Eadweard Muybridge and Etienne-Jules Marey. Broadly, then, a cluster of concerns emerges from such performances: the staging of desire and emotion, the imaging of movement and work.

Some of these interests carry over into the installations, images, and objects, which tend to interrogate “spatial conventions of the everyday.”12 An early instance is The withDrawing Room, 1987, in which DS+R cut up and repositioned parts of the former home of the Capp Street Project, an art space in San Francisco. With sections removed from the walls, and with a table and chairs suspended from the ceiling, the structure of everyday domesticity was disarticulated in a manner at once surgical and dadaistic. Bad Press, 1993–98, also treated home life, with the focus here on the work done by women—work that was once subject to motion studies as well, that is, to the overt disciplining of the laboring body. In this “Dissident Housework Series,” white dress shirts were ironed into bizarre twists and folds; reminiscent of the “involuntary sculptures” of Salvador Dalí, these shapes also recalled the contorted poses of hysterics, as if unpaid workingwomen had struck back directly at white-collar organization men. In a related installation titled Indigestion, 1995, DS+R allowed visitors to do the rearranging of the social unit, represented here by a dinner table set for two. Through an interactive touch screen one could mix and match various characters with different gender and class designations, even as the same recorded conversation droned on.

The interrogation of the everyday also led DS+R to the production of sleek objects, such as monogrammed towels and water glasses, with a Surrealist twist: Some of the towels express gender conflicts, for example, while some of the glasses dispense pharmaceuticals. Along with these dis/agreeable objects of private desire and disgust came ambiguous images of public seduction and aggression, as in Soft Sell, 1993, a large projected image of a luscious female mouth on the facade of an abandoned porn theater on Forty-second Street and Seventh Avenue. In the audio the disembodied feminine personage solicited passersby with questions such as “Hey you, wanna buy a ticket to paradise? Hey you, wanna buy a vacant lot in Manhattan?” Finally, DS+R have explored the tokens of tourism and the spaces of travel. Tourisms, 1991, is an installation of fifty Samsonite suitcases, one per state, suspended from the ceiling in ten rows of five; each is opened to reveal a “suitcase study” of a tourist attraction (e.g., Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home in Illinois) represented by a vintage postcard. If Tourisms brings the sights to us (it is also a play on the traveling exhibition), the multimedia performance Jet Lag, 1998, conceived with Marianne Weems, brought us to travel. This collaboration explored two stories of bizarre voyages—that of an American grandmother who took her grandson across the Atlantic 167 times in order to elude his father, and that of a British sailor who disappeared in a solo round-the-world race after faking his positions to officials.

The “fusion” of architecture with art was the distinctive move made by DS+R during its first two decades. Whereas architects like Koolhaas and Hadid pursued a neo-avant-garde strategy, whereby design was to be advanced via a selective return to historical precedents mostly in architecture, DS+R followed a postmodernist strategy, whereby design was to be complicated by a lateral turn to con- temporary practices mostly in art.13 This interdisciplinary move allowed DS+R to skirt many of the battles over “history” and “theory” that beset the architectural discipline in the 1980s and ’90s. Yet to critics their blurring of genres was too indebted to postmodernist art (their investigation of exhibition and display to Conceptual practice, their concern with desire and spectatorship to feminist practice), and what appeared innovative in an architectural context seemed less so in an artistic frame.14 Moreover, this involvement sometimes implicated DS+R in the ambiguous position of much postmodernist art, that is to say, in a “deconstructive” position that, as it spoke within the conventions and institutions that it sought to question, could also appear to shade into complicity with them.15

DS+R were more effective when they brought architectural expertise to bear on cultural matters, such as the effects of new media and technologies on space and subjectivity. This constitutes a second topos of their work, and initially it was based on two propositions. The first is that a prime condition of postmodern culture is a convergence of immediate seeing with mediated viewing. DS+R underscored this convergence first at Slow House, with its juxtaposition of picture window and video monitor, and now again at the ICA, with its mise en abyme of window and screen in the mediatheque (the view onto the harbor almost looks like a digital image). The second proposition is that the flow of video images has become the telltale form of media visuality and temporality today, perhaps as cinematic montage was in a previous moment of modernity.16 Several projects by DS+R refashion the contemporary facade as imagistic and mobile in this way; indeed, to put it very broadly, if much modern architecture focused on structure and space, and much postmodern design on symbol and surface, then much contemporary practice a la DS+R is drawn to a zone somewhere in between—to a mediated blend of screen space.17 Of course, one danger here is that to further the confusion of architecture and media is to serve an already pervasive environment of special effects and faux phenomenologies. The DS+R proposal of a mediated architecture, with its heightened visuality, might not do much to challenge the cultural requirements, at once distractive and didactic, of capitalist modernity today.18

In this exploration of architecture and media, DS+R first addressed the spatial effects of video surveillance. In Para-site, 1989, an installation at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, they positioned cameras at three thresholds of the museum (the entrance, the escalators, and the doors to the sculpture garden) and set up monitors in a gallery that was radically rearranged in the manner of The withDrawing Room (e.g., four chairs were set on the ceiling and the walls); here, then, viewing was aligned with surveilling, and both were disrupted in the process. Later, in Jump Cuts, 1995, DS+R installed a horizontal bank of twelve screens on the facade of a cineplex in San Jose on which was carried a montage of scenes from movie trailers and live footage of patrons in the lobby; thus viewing was juxtaposed with being watched, and moviegoing with monitoring. Finally, in Overexposed, 1994–2003, and Facsimile, 2003, DS+R also relayed images of the interior of a building to its exterior. In the first work a video panned the former Pepsi-Cola Building on Park Avenue, pausing at intervals so that fictional images from office life might be projected, while in the second piece a video monitor moved along the facade of Moscone Convention Center West in San Francisco, showing a mix of a live lobby feed and scripted office scenes.

Such projects led DS+R to consider the various uses of transparency in architecture. Of course, glass worked to dematerialize the traditional wall and so to expose the hidden interiors of buildings, with advocates of modern architecture quick to associate this partial disclosure not only with professional honesty but with democratic openness. Yet, as DS+R underscore, the technology of glass was also useful to corporate supervision and governmental surveillance, and soon enough it “spawned new paranoias.”19 However, in their account this is only the first transvaluation of transparency; today, in our exhibitionistic culture, they claim, it is followed by a second reversal, as “the fear of being watched has transformed into the fear that no one is watching.”20 And with this flip has come another: “Once considered invasive, electronic surveillance is now the accepted social contract in public space, a welcome assurance of security, and a performance vehicle.”21

This narrative of the vicissitudes of architectural transparency might be too quick and neat, and certainly in the wake of the Patriot Act, illegal wiretaps, and all the rest, our ease with surveillance is arguable. Nonetheless, the postulate of a “post-voyeuristic, post-paranoid vision” is provocative, especially given that our primary accounts of the gaze (Sartrean, Lacanian, feminist) are indeed inflected with a paranoia that positions the subject of the gaze as its object-victim as well.22 Moreover, DS+R have put this notion to suggestive use not only in media interventions like Overexposed and Facsimile but in actual designs. For example, in their renovation of the Brasserie restaurant in the Seagram Building (1997–2000), surveillance cameras relay images of arriving patrons to a bank of video monitors above the bar, even as these same patrons make a grand entrance down an elegant gangplank to the dining area. However, to call this exhibitionistic relation to vision “post-voyeuristic” makes little sense, at least in psychoanalytic terms, for according to Freud the exhibitionist is really the voyeur in disguise, who acts out precisely for his or her own imagined viewing. And this might well be the case at the Brasserie, too.

DS+R have worked to alter our relation to the gaze in other ways as well, first with Duchampian gestures of disturbed vision (a topos of the work from The Rotary Notary to the ICA), and recently with the calculated deployment of outright obscurity, as in the Blur Building (2002), a pavilion designed for the Swiss Expo at Yverdon-les-Bains. This temporary structure jutted out like a jetty onto Lake Neuchâtel, where, through a high-tech system of pumps, nozzles, and computer programs, it produced an immersive cloud into which visitors were invited to wander. On the one hand, its lightweight framework represented an extreme of structural transparency; on the other hand, the Blur Building was “devoted to obscurity” in a way that challenged the usual spectacles of such expositions with literally “nothing to see.”23

Recent DS+R designs like the Blur Building and the ICA are very responsive to site, a feature that has come to the fore now that the architects have begun to build with some regularity. Their old strategy of “blurring genres” assumed that categories like “art,” “architecture,” and “media” are given as distinct; today, however, that givenness seems a product more of modernist belief than of ontological fact, and, as with the transvaluations of architectural transparency, DS+R have adapted accordingly. In effect they have developed a practice that understands “blur” to be always already at work in a site, a practice that elaborates mixed conditions into appropriate structures.24 This thinking is evident in two touted commissions now under way in New York, the first involving the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the second the old elevated freight-train tracks known as the High Line.

Initially hired in 2003 to refashion the public spaces (including the information kiosks) at Lincoln Center, DS+R were soon given a much expanded portfolio: an addition within the School of American Ballet, an extension of the Juilliard School, a renovation of Alice Tully Hall, and a new restaurant on the North Plaza (in front of the Vivian Beaumont Theater). At the American Ballet the firm will add dance studios in the form of glass boxes suspended within the given space. At Juilliard they will provide new rehearsal spaces and classrooms for jazz, orchestra, and dance, as well as a black-box theater. Alice Tully will be transformed in appearance and acoustics, with its walls wrapped in a superfine wood skin that, with an internal lighting system, will seem to brighten and to dim as if naturally. Moreover, as the horizontal thrust of Juilliard will be continued toward Broadway, Alice Tully will receive a proper front for the first time. The design draws on the ICA: Faced in glass, the hall will cantilever out; it will include a suspended dance studio exposed to the street (reminiscent of the ICA mediatheque); and it will lead to a stepped terrace (as with the ICA grandstand). In short, DS+R here develop their own architectural language, yet do so in the service of the given program.

Finally, the restaurant, also faced in glass, will look onto the reflecting pool in front of the Vivian Beaumont, and its torqued lines will pick up on the geometries of adjacent buildings. At one end its concrete roof will ramp down to plaza level in a way that will provide a sloping field of grass for visitors, like a bit of Central Park transplanted to the arts center, and at the other end the prow of the restaurant, along with the old pool, will evoke the Hudson River. Thus, to reconnect Lincoln Center to the city is clearly the thrust of the overall project. Built during the 1960s, the center was conceived as a contemporary acropolis of high culture; literally elevated on a giant plinth, it appeared to disdain its poor neighborhood. DS+R want to close this distance as much as they can: As they sought to “intertwine civic and museum space” at the ICA, so here they strive to interconnect urban and cultural activity—and in the process to develop a democratic cultural design that is also an alternative to the populist spectacle architecture of many institutions.25

As might be expected, the plan has its opponents. Obviously, to extend Juilliard into Alice Tully is to change both, and fans of Pietro Belluschi, the architect of Juilliard, take umbrage. Moreover, the restaurant will alter the North Plaza pool, the work of the beloved landscape architect Dan Kiley, and that, too, ruffles feathers; indeed, some argue that the restaurant would not be needed as a bridge between Juilliard and Alice Tully and the center’s other halls if the Milstein Plaza, which once connected them, had not been removed. On the other side one might counter that DS+R are generally respectful of the late-modern styles of the original architects, which they see as an accepted part of the iconography of the city: Their extension of Juilliard will only confirm the strong horizontality of the Belluschi building, for example, and their restaurant will evoke the signature curves of Eero Saarinen, the architect of the nearby Vivian Beaumont.26 On another level, critics are suspicious of the democratic claims made for the new plan: It is easy enough to open up Lincoln Center to its neighborhood now that gentrification has done its work, they claim, and the real problems lie elsewhere, with underfunded arts education, inflated ticket prices, and so on. These arguments also have force, yet the architects cannot be held responsible for changes that may be too little, too late, and perhaps misdirected to boot.

If the Lincoln Center brief is to refashion grand cultural spaces, the High Line project is to refunction a derelict industrial structure. Built of steel and concrete during the Depression, the High Line runs for 1.45 miles from Gansevoort Street (where the Whitney Museum of American Art now plans a new building) to the Hudson Rail Yards at Thirty-fourth Street. Long abandoned, the elevated track was condemned when Rudy Giuliani was mayor. But in 1999 a group called Friends of the High Line arose to save it, and the movement was charged after photographs taken by Joel Sternfeld revealed how extraordinary this ruin is—how many little ecosystems of urban nature flourish there, how many views it might open up, how many activities it might entertain. The Bloomberg administration was responsive, and, after a competition in 2004, DS+R were commissioned, in collaboration with the landscape design studio Field Operations, to develop the High Line as a new kind of urban park (the present area is 6.7 acres overall), with regular points of access to the streets eighteen to thirty feet below.

A first principle of the designers is to keep it “slow,” in counterpoint to the speedy esplanade along the river given over to cyclists and skaters. A second principle is to keep it “unruly,” to protect it from too much design, and to this end they have conceived the notion of “agri-tecture,” a hybrid of agriculture and architecture, in which the former frees up the latter even as the latter frames the former. This notion has helped the designers to conceive the new High Line as a promenade that will weave green (planted) areas with gray (surfaced) areas in multiple ways. Via various paths, with ramps down to “pits” and up to “mounds,” and with occasional “flyovers” that provide treetop lookouts, one will pass through a range of microenvironments (from wetland and mossland to meadows and woods), with abundant sites for pausing, performance, and play along the way.

Like the ICA, the High Line will be a platform for looking as well as for walking; its design thus suggests an intelligence equally attentive to sight and site. It also suggests an intervention in the expanded field of architecture whereby the designers extrapolate from the mixed conditions on the ground (or, in this case, above it). This is in keeping with a strong tendency in recent art toward an immanent model of fieldwork, of creative proposals produced out of site research, and this points in turn to yet another moment in the art-architecture rapport in which DS+R participate, one that is rich with democratic implications. Of course, just as the new Lincoln Center might be made more public in appearance but not in actuality, the High Line could become just another promenade for the well-to-do. Yet here again, given the constraints of clients and sites, it is for designers to propose, and for the rest of us to dispose as best we can—to insist on public access and democratic practice.

Today DS+R are at a crossroads, one telling of our time. On the one hand, their blurring of genres, their fusion of architecture, art, and media, is part of a postmodernism that today has precious little purchase left on capitalist modernity—indeed, that fronts for that modernity as much as anything else. On the other hand, DS+R have discovered a different kind of mixed condition at work in the sites and the program given them to develop—a condition of tensions, even of conflicts, that their designs have begun to open up, to “mediate” in a way that does not simply smoothen.

Hal Foster is Townsend Martin Professor and Chair of Modern Art and Archaeology at Princeton University.


1. Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio founded Diller + Scofidio in 1979, and Charles Renfro, a collaborator since 1997, joined as partner in 2004; for the sake of simplicity I will refer to the studio as DS+R throughout. (And, for the sake of disclosure, Diller teaches at Princeton, as do I.)

2. Although the ICA avoids excessive iconicity (and one could argue that it turns away from the city toward the harbor), it is still intended by Boston authorities to be an economic attractor. The “Fan Pier” of which it is a part is under development by the Fallon Company as a link between the harbor front and the business district. (A convention-and-exhibition center, designed by Rafael Viñoly and built by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, was completed in this area in 2004.)

3. The snake, or ribbon, which the Dutch firm MVRDV has sometimes featured, is another form-device pronounced in recent design, occasioned in part by advances in materials and techniques as well as by provocations from sculptors such as Richard Serra.

4. Nicholas Baume, “It’s Still Fun to Have Architecture: An Interview with Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio, and Charles Renfro,” in Baume, ed., Super Vision (Boston: Institute of Contemporary Art, 2006), 186.

5. Ibid., 187.

6. Nearly ten years later DS+R used a shallower arc to generate the scheme for Slither Building (1994–2000), a 105-unit housing project in Gifu, Japan. Here each of the fifteen stacks of units is shifted 1.5 degrees from the one before it. As in the Eyebeam scheme two years later, tropes of seeing and snaking are combined—as if architecture might instantiate sight as alive, incarnate, mobile.

7. Super Vision, 186. Note again the subjectivizing of architecture here.

8. Ibid., 183.

9. Ibid., 186.

10. Project note in Aaron Betsky and K. Michael Hays, eds., Scanning: The Aberrant Architectures of Diller + Scofidio (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2003), 51.

11. Project note, in ibid., 56.

12. Diller, in Super Vision, 179.

13. With allusions to Duchamp and Surrealism, some DS+R works also disclose a neo-avant-garde aspect, but again it is in the register of art.

14. One might associate some of the aforementioned projects with the work of Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Martha Rosler, Mary Kelly, Allan McCollum, Louise Lawler. . . .

15. This difficulty is evident in the texts by the cocurators of the 2003 survey of DS+R at the Whitney. There Aaron Betsky describes DS+R as “display engineers” who participate in the culture of consumption in order to expose its workings: “These artists display display” (Scanning: The Aberrant Architectures of Diller + Scofidio, 23). In so doing, Betsky claims, they “frustrate” this culture event as they “surf” on it. For his part Michael Hays sees DS+R design as “a tool of social cartography” that “discloses the extrinsic, ideological structures that contaminate and complicate the intrinsic, supposedly pure forms and techniques of architecture” (130). Yet this “scanning” is but “a placeholder for a critique that has become impossible” because “critical distance and difference have been annulled” (133). However sophistical Betsky sounds here, and however dire Hays, both have their points. Often today architecture does appear to be located between display and engineering—the function that connects image and structure, as it were—and often it does seem to scan (i.e., to mirror) the culture as much as anything else.

16. Edward Dimendberg argues as much in his essay “Blurring Genres” in Scanning.

17. However media-savvy, DS+R design is not digitally driven. “We could have drawn this building completely by hand,” Renfro remarks of the ICA (Super Vision, 191).

18. In his essay “One-Way Street” (1928), a meditation on a Berlin roiled by economic transformation and political turmoil, Walter Benjamin traced an elliptical history of the orientation of the sign, both its architecture and its reception, from ancient inscriptions to modern billboards. Here in part is what he had to say: “If centuries ago [script] began gradually to lie down, passing from the upright inscription to the manuscript resting on sloping desks before finally taking itself to bed in the printed book, it now begins just as slowly to rise again from the ground. The newspaper is read more in the vertical than in the horizontal plane, while film and advertisement force the printed word entirely into the dictatorial perpendicular.” In buildings covered with advertisements and slogans (some in electric lights), Benjamin glimpsed a return not only of the dominant verticality of the medieval church but of its didactic address of image and text as well. Today, of course, this dimension is still with us, only more so, dialectically transformed, with the associated media now the television and the computer along with film (to provide the scale of the script). In fact, in Times Square and in countless other districts, we encounter a version of our digital screens at home or in the office made gigantic; that is, we encounter a “dictatorial perpendicular” that is now often wired into the skin of the building and set in mesmeric flow. As indicated by various projects, DS+R appear more sanguine about this condition than others (myself included) might be. See Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, Volume 1: 1913–1926, ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), 456.

19. Diller + Scofidio, project note in Thomas Y. Levin, Ursula Frohne, and Peter Weibel, eds., CTRL Space: Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother (Karlsruhe, Germany: ZKM Center for Art and Media, 2002), 354.

20. Ibid., 355.

21. Ibid.

22. Diller, in Super Vision, 182.

23. Ibid., 183. And yet, it might be argued, the cloud was a kind of spectacle in its own right.

24. This site intelligence might be understood in terms of the network thinking outlined by Bruno Latour in We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993).

25. Diller, in Super Vision, 190.

26. In fact DS+R seem devoted to this period style in general: For instance, with details like stone patio flooring and white leather chairs, the Brasserie suggests a cocktail of one part Charles and Ray Eames, one part James Bond. Besides Belluschi (Juilliard, 1965–69) and Saarinen (Vivian Beaumont Theater, 1960–65), the principal center architects were Max Abramovitz (Philharmonic Hall, 1958–62), Wallace K. Harrison (Metropolitan Opera House, 1958–66), Gordon Bunshaft (Library and Museum of the Performing Arts, 1958–65), and Philip Johnson (New York State Theater, 1958–64).